To kick off the brand new season, Statesboro is welcoming in a very familiar rival.
Brunswick (0-1) heads to Womack Field at 7:30 p.m. tonight to square off against the Blue Devils in a rematch of two very close games from 2010.
Last season, Statesboro got off to a good start by travelling to Brunswick and knocking off the Pirates — then ranked No. 8 in the state. Later in the season, The Devils returned for the Region 2-AAAA title game and got the same result, dethroning the Pirates as region champs.
This time, it’s No. 2 Statesboro that has the biggest target on its back and Brunswick is trying to play the spoiler role.
“Brunswick is Brunswick,” said SHS running back Quan Daniels. “We know that they’re always going to be tough. Even before I got to high school, I always heard people talking about Brunswick. This is a really big game and a big rivalry.”
In order to fend off the Pirates once more, the Devils will have to be sharp out of the gates. Brunswick lost several key players from last year’s team, but has a track record of finding plenty of talent and athleticism to sprinkle all over the field each season.
The biggest question will be the rust factor as tonight will be the first game of the season for the Devils, but is the second date on the schedule for Brunswick.
“Everything that we do, we’ll be seeing for the first time in a game situation,” said SHS coach Steve Pennington. “Every run, pass, blocking assignment, kick – All of that is going to mark the first time that we’re doing it in a game that counts. Brunswick has already had that opportunity.”
As for having film of the Pirates’ first game, Pennington didn’t see much of an information advantage.
“We’ve played each other plenty of times. Neither of us is much different, so I suspect that Brunswick knows exactly what to expect from us.”
What to expect is a heavy dose of one of the state’s most relentless rushing attacks.
Daniels and Michael Summers make for a fierce 1-2 combination out of the Statesboro backfield and plenty of backups are waiting in the wings to keep everyone’s legs fresh. Up front, there are some new faces on the SHS offensive line, but all had at least some experience last season. Statesboro’s ability to move the chains and grind out long possessions was the key in both of its victories over Brunswick last season and will be essential again tonight if the Devils want a win.
On the other side of the ball, the Devils will have to be ready to run.
Sophomore Corey Dixon is in his first season as Brunswick’s starting quarterback, but like those before him, Dixon is a great athlete that can hurt defenses with either his arm or his legs.
The Devils were able to prevent quarterback rollouts against Brunswick last season and a pair of great efforts by the defensive secondary limited the effectiveness of the Pirates’ group of talented receivers – many of which return this season.
“Brunswick has guys everywhere that can give you trouble,” said Pennington. “It’s imperative that we show up a very focused football team and execute well for all four quarters.”
While tonight’s game pits region rivals against one another, the fact that Statesboro and Brunswick are in different divisions will prevent the matchup from being counted as a region game. Only intra-division records count toward playoff eligibility, meaning that no matter tonight’s outcome, it could be another preview of a potential region championship showdown in November.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.